Friday, December 20, 2013

An Eternal Kick in the Ass:

A few months ago I voluntarily participated in a free trial for a training academy that prepares future IDF soldiers for the special forces. The exercise was a grueling 4.5 hours on the Tel Aviv beach that included running, push-ups, crawling, team building exercises and hikes to strengthen the mind-body-spirit trio. They even had this thing called "Schnitzel" (breaded chicken) where you run into the sea fully-clothed and run back onto the beach, drop to the ground and roll around covering every square inch of your body with Israel's finest sand. We did drill after drill after drill. The coaches were ruthless and the guys were motivated and serious. It was tough but I kept pressing on while fighting fatigue and a strong urge to quit.

The training grounds:
S.O.D. Photography

Towards the closing of the workout we hiked along the beach and up the dunes. We carried packs on our backs as well as a heavy sandbag on our necks for the duration of the trek. I had already past what I thought was my own personal breaking point about 2 hours beforehand but I trudged along feeding on self-pride and inspiration from the guys. I was slow and clearly a notch below the physical endurance levels of the other seasoned participants. I was panting, red in the face and making unnatural sounds. My sodden clothing stuck to my broken body and my skin burned from the combination of sweat, sand and sun. I was lagging behind and had to run a few meters every now and then to keep up with the team but that didn't last for long.
"GORDON!" barked the head coach through gritted teeth. "Gordon, come here I want you in front."
The group made room for me to get to the head of the line and I jogged over still huffing and puffing and bent over from the weight of the sand-bag.

"Look at me," he said still leading the group through the sand. Despite my reluctance, I lifted my neck and shot him a wild look.
 "You better wipe that pathetic look of weakness off your face," he growled. "One day you may have to hike a few miles - in full gear - to a suspect's house. If you knock down that door looking like you do now nobody will ever take you seriously. PULL. YOURSELF. TOGETHER!!"
I was stunned. A never-ending stream of expletives streaked through my mind like a bullet train. I didn't respond but his fiery words tore through my torso and entered my rapid beating heart. I squeezed my eyes shut and put one foot in front of the other ignoring my own slow pace. I don't know if the excess energy came from his callous pep talk or simply because I was so pissed at him. It took me awhile to shake off the feeling but I continued on. I simply hated that my hard work was being ignored and after all I had done I was getting yelled at to do more. I wanted my back-breaking labor to be recognized not minimized.

Although, after the exercise I felt different. Endorphins flowed freely and feelings of wellbeing and accomplishment warmed me from underneath my damp clothing. After reflecting on all I had done in the past few hours I secretly felt grateful for his crass command. I was reminded that although I take pride in my independence I cannot self-generate motivation to the point where I can give it my best 100% of the time. I need a boost along the way, some inspiration to pick myself up when I simply cannot. I pushed myself to the brink of the cliff of capitulation and I needed a shock to shake me from my slumber. Something to rid my mind of pathetic thoughts of self-pity and drill through my head that I have what it takes to blast past the barriers that prevent me from accomplishing great things. I needed that reminder to believe in myself.

His reminder still rings in my ears to this day.

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